While the Samsung Galaxy S22 is very likely not due out for over six months, a new report has revealed an interesting omission from its camera system.
The next Samsung Galaxy S-series phone won't use a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor as part of its camera array, according to Korean outlet ET News (opens in new tab), which cited industry sources.
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ET News' unnamed industry official said this was due to customers being satisfied by photos not using ToF sensors: "Consumer response to the current camera system without ToF is not bad, so we decided not to add ToF to our next work."
"We will not add anything because we can meet the consumer's eye level even with a general camera without ToF," another industry official said.
Samsung first used ToF sensors on the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G in 2019, and then again on the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra. ToF cameras are a way that a phone's camera system can figure out the distance between it and the subject of a photo. It uses a combination of light emitter and sensor to measure how long it takes for light to reflect from the subject, which then allows the phone to calculate how best to focus or apply special effects.
Since then, the sensor has been dropped from the Galaxy Note 20 series and Galaxy S21 series, which instead use laser autofocus systems on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy S21 Ultra. It's possible that the S22 will also use laser autofocus, even if just on its Ultra variant.
Samsung's abandoning of ToF sensors hasn't stopped rivals from adopting the technology. The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max feature LiDAR sensors, a similar technology to ToF. Huawei's P40 Pro and Mate 40 Pro also use ToF sensors. Apple's use of LiDAR had apparently led Samsung to ponder reintroducing ToF cameras to its phones. However ET News' report seems to show this is no longer being considered.
It's expected that moving away long-term from ToF sensors will have an impact on Samsung's own production of the sensors. Without its own smartphone division using them, Samsung may scale down its production of ToF cameras, leaving more global demand to be scooped up by Sony, the world's leading supplier of camera parts for phones.
Other reports have given us more encouraging news about the Galaxy S22's cameras. It was recently rumored that Samsung is teaming up with camera maker Olympus to help refine the phone's photography skills, similar to the OnePlus 9's Hasselblad-tuned cameras.
ET News mentioned the Galaxy S22 will launch in Q1 of next year. The Galaxy S21 launched in January of this year, so chances are we should expect an early appearance by the S22 in 2022. Samsung's Galaxy S-series phones often feature in our best Android phones picks, including the current ToF-less Galaxy S21. So it seems likely that the Galaxy S22 will remain a quality phone even without a ToF sensor.